Japanese department stores are places of wonder, where staff greet customers with low bows and the basements are temples to elaborately packaged delights
When Japan’s big department stores open their doors each morning, managers step outside and offer a synchronised bow to customers, many of whom will have started queueing well before opening time. Most who file through the doors make a beeline for one area: the depachika, or food hall in the basement. Depachikas (a combination of depato, meaning department store, and chika, meaning basement) aren’t your average food halls. They’re a Japanese institution, a tribute to the country’s finest and most elaborately packaged foods.
At the Tokyo Daimaru, a Kit-Kat concession (it’s Japan’s best-selling chocolate) has Kit Kat chandeliers, and wasabi or pistachio-flavoured varieties to buy and take away in freezer bags containing tiny ice packs.
To celebrate four decades of the Good Hotel Guide, editor Adam Raphael chooses his favourite places to stay – mixing affordable character and a spot of ‘pamper yourself’ luxury
Forty years ago, an article in the Observer by literary agent Hilary Rubinstein gave birth to The Good Hotel Guide. Readers responded with such enthusiasm to his plea for recommendations that the first edition had more than 300 entries. Since then, the hospitality industry has gone through radical change. The word “boutique” was unknown, hotel food was usually dire, gastropubs unheard of, children and dogs unwelcome and the internet a mystery known only to a handful of boffins.
What has not changed is the guide’s ethos. We do not accept hospitality or payment for an entry in the print edition, inspections are anonymous, and reviews from readers remain the lifeblood of the guide. “You can corrupt one man, you can’t bribe an army” was Raymond Postgate’s philosophy when he set up The Good Food Guide. That’s our philosophy, too.